Three German backpackers can't understand how someone could smash a car window and steal almost all their possessions in broad daylight at a busy Northland tourist spot without anyone noticing.

While the theft has forced them to change their travel plans they say it won't sour an otherwise "wonderful" stay in New Zealand.

Paula Sima, 25, Patricia Furtner, 26, and Thalia Doering, 27, parked their Honda Odyssey by the old sailing ship next to Waitangi Bridge about 10.30am last Sunday while they went kayaking to Haruru Falls.

The trio, from a small village near Munich, are on a year-long working holiday so the vehicle was full of their belongings, including clothing, electronics and photos of their seven months so far in New Zealand.

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They returned about 1pm to find a window had been broken and everything but their boots and sleeping bags had been stolen, Ms Sima said.

"It was in the middle of the day in a public place with a lot of people and cars around. We don't understand how it happened."

No police were available to help them or take fingerprints, and they were wet and cold after being caught in the rain with no dry clothes to change into.

"We felt so lost. Every one of us called our mums," Ms Sima said.

They lost most of their photos - only Ms Doering had taken all her camera cards along on the paddle - including, most gutting of all, an underwater movie of the trio swimming with dolphins in Kaikoura.

"It's unbelievable, it's so crazy. They took everything," Ms Furtner said.

The women had planned to spend a few more weeks exploring the North Island, then walk the Heaphy Track in the South Island. But with their tramping gear gone they will return to their base at Kaikoura, and back to work, so they can get money to replace their gear.

The trio have been working on the rebuild of SH1 and say being part of the earthquake reconstruction has been an amazing experience.

"We're not thinking about going home," Ms Sima said. "We love it here, we had just good experiences until now. We have met a lot of lovely, friendly people."

The women were flooded with offers of help after putting a post on a Paihia Facebook page asking locals to look out for their belongings.

"It was really nice to hear that people want to help us but we can look after ourselves. We still have some money and we have our jobs in Kaikoura," Ms Sima said.

They did, however, take up offers of free stays at Bay of Islands Holiday Park and Russell Top 10 Holiday Park.

They resumed their journey on Tuesday evening, heading south via Russell and the coastal road to Whangarei. They plan to try the North Island again in November.

* The stolen items include three large backpacks, two overnight bags, two daypacks (red and black), a tablet with a world map cover, a cellphone, a Vtin action camera, a pink Canon camera, a red iPod, a Kindle e-book reader with a red cover, an external hard drive and an orange washbag. If you see or are offered any items like these contact Kerikeri police on (09) 407 9211.